August 16th 2010
Pastry is considered to be quite difficult to make and cold hands are prized as good for the art. I read a delightful book called Countryman’s Cooking, by W.M.W. Fowler, containing fantastic tips and recipes for cooking fish and game, he however, always called for “Flakey Flossie” to make the pastry, in exchange for supper and a few glasses of gin.
I’ve tried a few pastry recipes over the years, from books by Delia, Keith Floyd and Elizabeth David. I found the best ones (among many other useful recipes) in Cordon Bleu Cookery, by Rosemary Hume and Muriel Downes, sadly now out of print. I had a copy in the early 80’s, which I lost and then miraculously found another copy in a second hand, English, bookshop in Barcelona, for 600 pesetas in 1992.
I discover a brilliant trick for making pastry a couple of years ago, while browsing a W.I. cookbook at a girlfriend’s mother’s house. Once you try this you’ll never buy that awful, frozen stuff from supermarkets again! No mess and no sticky fingers.
First of all, you need a food processor – I had one that sat in a cupboard for 20 years until I realised it could make pastry…
This will make enough pastry for a decent sized quiche or pie crust:
10 oz (282 g) plain flour
1 level teaspoon of salt
5 oz (141 g) cold butter, cut into small cubes (that’s the equivalent of half a pat of butter)
About 5 or 6 dessertspoons of water
N.B. 9 oz = 250 g and the flour to butter ratio is 2:1
Add all the ingredients, except the water, to your food processor, making sure you are using the blade attachment. My food processor has two speeds, 1 and 2. Speed 1 is sufficient. Put the lid on the food processor and turn it on. You will see lumps of butter being mixed into the flour and then you should begin to see what is called crumb – the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. When this happens, drip your water very slowly into the food processor. You will see that the the mixture begins to get lumpy and will suddenly form an oblong ball (like my picture above). When this happens the pastry is done – stop the food processor. Please note that the quantity of water needed depends on the size of the spoon, you might need slightly more or less than stated. If you add 6 spoons of water and the pastry hasn’t formed a ball, then just add a tiny bit more, slowly.
You should chill your pastry for an hour or so before rolling it out for use. It’s quite easy to flour a piece of cling film and flour the pasty too, before wrapping it up and putting it in the fridge. This pastry will keep overnight and anyone lacking a food processor can still make this in the traditional manner.
You can use this method to make any simple pastry recipe and fresh pasta dough.